September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

NGSS March Madness Edition – a Sports Analogy

Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

Imagine this scenario:

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You sign your daughter up to be on an elementary age basketball team. After several weeks, you ask your kid how they like playing basketball. Your kid says they never play basketball, they run drills. You ask the coach when they will play basketball and the coach says, “They aren’t good enough to play basketball yet. They really don’t have the skills down, they can’t dribble well, shoot well, pass well, and can barely run any plays.” Then you ask when they will be ready to play basketball and the coach answers, “Oh probably in 10 or 12 years they will have learned enough to play the game.”

My guess is that you would immediately take your kid out of that team and put her on a team where she got to play. The play wouldn’t be great, the games would be at times painful to watch, but the kids would get the play the game. You can insert any after-school activity into this scenario – art lessons, music, chess club, any sport. We all understand that you have to play the game to learn the game, even if it’s not done with expertise.

Sometimes in school we forget this. In many traditional science courses there was a brief introduction to the “scientific method” at the beginning of the year, where students did an experiment that was likely not related to the content the kids were going to learn. Maybe they did an occasional lab where they had to follow a series of step by step procedures carefully to get the “right” answer. Mostly, for the rest of the year students learned content and skills without getting to “do science.” This is much like being on a basketball team that never plays basketball.

 

The NGSS asks us to have students doing science constantly. Every one of the performance expectations specifies which science or engineering practice students should be engaged in. Some of the resistance to NGSS from inside the classroom and outside is based on the idea that students won’t have enough content knowledge to “do science” well. This is from the Fordham Foundation’s unfavorable review of the NGSS:

The purpose of K–12 science standards, therefore, is not primarily to encourage mastery of “practices” or to encourage “inquiry-based learning.” Rather, the purpose is to build knowledge first so that students will have the storehouse of information and understanding that they need to engage in the scientific reasoning and higher level thinking that we want for all students.

This is from a recent Twitter exchange on #NGSSchat:

“what’s the point of chem if it can’t be used to solve real world problems?”

“LOL! You can’t solve ANY problems without a fundamental base!”

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To me this is exactly the same thinking as the imaginary coach who doesn’t think the kids can play basketball until their skills are proficient. Students do need skills and they need knowledge. They need to practice and they need to run drills. But they also need to play, so they will care about the hard work, so they will see how the parts of the game fit together, and so they have fun.

So in the spirit of NGSS, let the students play. Let them question, model, design and re-design, experiment, argue, and explain. It will be frustrating. They will forget everything they have been taught. They will do everything the wrong way. Things might get broken. But they will also do brilliant and unexpected things. You will find yourself cheering. It will be as meaningful and joyful as kids playing ball.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Is This a First: Young Female Teens Propose California Water Conservation Legislation?

Posted: Monday, August 28th, 2017

Meet the La Habra Water Guardians from the Optics of their Teacher Moderator, Dr. P.

by Susan M. Pritchard, Ph.D.

You have just won the 2016 Lexus Eco Challenge as one of four First Place Winners in the Middle School Category across the nation! Now, what are you going to do … go to Disneyland? No, not for four of the six La Habra Water Guardians, Disneyland is not in their future at this time. Although I think they would love a trip to Disneyland, (are you listening Mickey Mouse?), at this moment they are focused big time on one major thing … celebrating the passage of their proposed legislation: Assembly Bill 1343 Go Low Flow Water Conservation Partnership Bill and now promoting the enactment of this legislation. Learn More…

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.